It is 17 years since the Urban Task Force led by Lord Rogers reported its findings in Towards an Urban Renaissance. The highly influential report set the tone and agenda for the regeneration and revitalisation of many of our city centres. Quite literally on the edge of that urban renaissance debate has been the future of our suburbs. While there have been some useful
reports warning about the marginalisation of suburbia they have rarely had the prominence they deserve. Moreover, when suburbs have been discussed, the debate has focused on creating new suburbs rather than examining what existing areas might need.
This report aims to build on the Institute’s previous work by examining some of the drivers of change in suburbs in three major cities, not least in respect of population change, housing, the economy, the labour market and welfare reform. The aim was not only to place the spotlight on the problems facing the suburbs, but also to set out constructive ideas for renewal.
Ignoring the evidence of decline is consigning these places to future failure. Market forces alone are unlikely to halt decline or regenerate ailing suburbs. Instead, as the evidence presented in this report demonstrates, cross-sector collaboration is needed. Not just between public and private sector, but between local authorities and with voluntary and community groups. However, just as with the urban renaissance, realising any renewal of the suburbs demands that government takes a lead. It is now over a decade and half on from the Urban Task Force and some of the issues are inevitably very different. Prices and values have changed and public finances are under serious stress. Furthermore, the move to greater devolution is changing the ways decision making in suburbs will take place. Nevertheless, as the report makes clear, there is a strong case for a suburban task force to set out an agenda and consensus for change, and for local, city and national government to act on the findings.